Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Shooting Down Kennedy?

*** Disclaimer: Majority written prior to the Kennedy signing:

A popular rumor going around is that the Adam Kennedy sweepstakes are nearing an end, with the Cardinals currently in the lead for their former farmhand's services, ahead of the Blue Jays and Padres (link). If these reports are accurate, Kennedy's destination may be known within the next few days. Kennedy was said to be seeking a deal comparable to that signed by Placido Polanco in 2005 (4 years/$18.4 M), but the current Cardinals offer is reportedly around 3 years/$15 M.

It would be truly ironic if the first non-returning free agent signed by the Cards this offseason is at 2B, where in recent years the team has waited until the bitter end to get their man (Womack, Grudzielanek, Spivey/Miles/Belliard). If Kennedy is in fact the Cards' primary 2B target, the question then becomes: is he the right guy and, if so, how much is too much?

Below is a statistical comparison over the past 3-5 full seasons (dependent on the player) between Kennedy, the player whose contract he's seeking (Polanco), the player who he'd be supplanting in STL (Miles), and some of the more realistic FA/trade alternatives (Belliard, Loretta, Giles) ... sorry, it's kind of small/blurry (if anyone knows of a good way to input tables into posts, please let me know).


Kennedy is not Polanco, and thus should not receive a contract on par with Polanco's. Over the past 5 seasons, Polanco has been a better contact hitter with more pop and less strikeouts. In the field, Polanco has also displayed better range/zone coverage and has shown no indications of dimishing returns as he ages. Granted, the free agent market as a whole is over-inflated, but this is not the case at 2nd base, where the Mets' re-signing of Jose Valentin and the Indians' trade for Josh Barfield left more players looking for teams than teams looking for players ... consider that Kennedy, Belliard, Loretta, Durham, Walker, Graffanino, and even potentially Lugo/Aurilia are still looking for 2B jobs. At 2B, the market may in fact be de-flationary. Thus, the rumored 3 years and $15 M appears to be a significant overpay.

2) Kennedy is, however, a significant improvement over both Miles and Belliard (the current incumbents). He is statistically superior to Miles (and in a significant way) in essentially every category except strikeouts and, suprisingly, range, where Kennedy has exhibited a somewhat-alarming, steady decline over the past 5 years (this could become a concern with the similarly limited range of Eckstein). Compared to Belliard, Kennedy connects for less overall extra-base hits, but connects much more often, leading to a higher overall OBP and SLG. With Edmonds, Encarnacion, et al, there are already enough players that miss the ball altogether way too much in the lineup ... Kennedy would be an upgrade offensively over Belly. In the field, the two may be about a wash (although I admittedly don't know much about Kennedy's arm). Kennedy's defensive trends are alarming, but then so is Belliards' rapidly declining ZR. To me, this is vindication that he wasn't in fact THAT great of a defender, but rather took advantage of exaggerated positioning and just generally looked good for a fat guy fielding his position (that doesn't bode well for Belliard's future defensively).

3) Loretta is a solid overall player: a good contact hitter with a good eye and good pop and a decent defender. However, if you look more closely, he has been in significant decline both offensively and defensively over the past few seasons. At 30, Kennedy would be less of an injury risk and likely the better player at a lower cost.

4) Giles would be a great pick-up, but he would likely cost more money ($5-6 M/year) and a couple quality players to acquire (via trade). He hits for significantly more power than the other available options with a good eye and adequate defense ... he would be tailor-made for the #2 spot in front of Albert Pujols and is still young at 28. Giles would be my #1 choice to play 2B for the Cards in 2007 and beyond, but depending what it would require to obtain/retain him, Kennedy could prove the better option as an addition without subtraction.

5) Kennedy and Giles are the only available options that would legitimately provide speed to a SB-deprived team.

6) Although not shown in the above table, one thing to be conerned about with Kennedy is his relative ineffectiveness against LHP. Over the same span, Kennedy hit LHP at a poor .253 clip with a .657 OPS, almost .100 points lower than his composite average. With Duncan and Edmonds already penciled in for the 2007 lineup, adding Kennedy may make the Cards even more susceptible to lefties than they were in '06.

THE VERDICT: Aside from a reasonable Marcus Giles trade/extension, Kennedy is the best available 2B option for the Cards. At the outset, I wasn't super excited about Kennedy as a Cardinal (part II), but the more that I look at the numbers, the more I'd be relatively pleased about it. 3 years/$15M is too much, but at less than say $4 M/year for a couple of seasons, I'd be happy to have the never-ending 2B question answered early this year and the year-to-year merry-go-round finally halt. So no, Walt, don't shoot down this Kennedy right away ...

*** Post-Signing Announcement

So it's now official (link) ... Kennedy and Eckstein are re-united as a DP-combo for 3 years/$10 M. Kennedy certainly has his shortcomings and concerns to be watched closely (declining defensive range and HR totals), but he is a very solid player at an affordable price. In today's market, a starting position player at $3.3 M/year seems like a big bargain. With the signings of Kennedy, Wells, Bennett, and Marrero, Jocketty is at it again and can now focus on bigger prizes with some degree of payroll flexibility (2 of Schmidt, Lilly, Padilla, Meche, Weaver, or Suppan or maybe even an out of the blue trade for a marquee player like V. Wells/C. Crawford ... highly unlikely, but who knows?) It's been a good day overall in Cardinal Nation.


At 12:25 AM, Blogger Liam said...

The section on Tables in this tutorial should teach you all you need to know to insert tables into your posts.

The new version of blogger may very well have some sort of tool for making them, though.

You can also save tables in MS Excel as html, open the file up with notepad, and paste it into your post. The code will be unholy messy, though.


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